Artist Stan Natchez took a circuitous route to his successful career as a full-time artist. His father, an intellectual, authored a book on the connections between Jungian and Native American symbolism and Stan Natchez himself earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree before teaching humanities for 10 years at a prep school, then serving as an editor at Native Peoples Magazine. Always a creative child while growing up in Los Angeles, it was his participation in Native American dances that led him to painting.
“In the white man’s world, if you want to get an education, you go to college,” Stan Natchez explains. “In the Indian way, if you want to get knowledge, you go through ceremonies. I am a California Indian (Tataviam, “the people who face the sun”) and all our ceremonies are gone. But I was fortunate enough to travel throughout the United States and meet people who lived in tribes that had ceremonies and invited me in.” Performing traditional Native American dances throughout Europe and the U.S., Stan Natchez developed a fine eye for both color and composition from the beadwork he created for his regalia. By learning from elders of many tribes during these travels, he gives credit to this artistic medium for building in him a stronger sense of cultural self esteem.
"I feel fortunate for having been raised in the city because of the perspective it gave me on modern life,” Stan Natchez observes. “However, without an awareness of our traditional heritage, we as Native Americans have no identity. By taking the best of both worlds, the modern and the traditional, we are better able to find balance in our lives." The philosophies and techniques of these two worlds have allowed Stan Natchez to achieve a complex harmony in his work - with a distinctive Neo-Pop style. His unique and dramatic mixed-media paintings may incorporate a range of items from beadwork to bottle caps into their design. Images are conveyed with the two-dimensional look of Native American “ledger art” even as the artist’s subjects ask viewers to look deeper at that which is represented. By overlaying many of these images over actual U.S. currency the representation of ideas grows more compellingly complex. “When I paint the dollar bill,” the artist explains, “I’m saying that the dollar bill is a symbol of the world we live in. When you go to the store, what do you need to buy something? You need money, right? In the 1700s and 1800s Indians painted on deerskin, buffalo or elk hides. And if you wanted something, hides were your money. So the modern-day hide is the dollar bill.”
Stan Natchez feels strongly about communicating contemporary Native American philosophy that has been purged of any romantic or stereotypical idealism. This is undeniably thought-provoking Native American art.